A Mailbox Full of the Karmapa’s Tibetan Buddhism

Do Tibetans self-identify as “Tibetan Buddhists” or is this a habit of self-representation unique to Westerners?

Japhy is of the opinion that if you self-identify as “Tibetan Buddhist” this indicates that you are a particular kind of person.

Unlike most Tibetans you aren’t a very likable person.

Unlike most Tibetans you get an inordinate amount of pleasure from correcting other people.

One of the many reasons you are not liked.

You get Japhy’s drift.

There is something fundamentally broken in people that consciously, not for convenience, or out of respect for their Rinpoches, but to associate themselves with Tibetans as if their goodness might rub off on them, self-identify as Tibetan Buddhist.

If Japhy was Tibetan he would be offended if some white dude represented himself to him as a Tibetan Buddhist.

He wouldn’t care how often such a person takes his holidays in India or how much he respects Tibetan tradition.

Japhy would consider such a person a poser and an insult to that which he presumes to be.

if you subscribe to the email updates here you have a mail box full of updates from yet another Tibetan Buddhist.

He joins the likes of Betty, Lama D, and Mickey in our Tibetan Buddhist hall of shame here.

Congratulations, Tom.

How are these people typical as Tibetan Buddhists?

They are typical in that if you attend any public teaching of a Rinpoche you will be sitting in the very same room next to people not all different than Tom, the person that filled your mailbox this weekend with minute by minute email updates of his comments that I spent my weekend deleting.

My phone was pinging so much the other day at Dominick’s people were wondering who in the world I was as I attempted to shop for groceries.

I had to stop to delete each of his comments.

This morning he filled your mailbox with updates while I was enjoying my breakfast.

I left up the comment in which he said it would be a good thing if I was dead.

Yes, as is typical of Tibetan Buddhists, Tom, isn’t very smart.

That shut him up.

Hopefully he will also figure out that all his comments are being sent to the mailboxes of anyone who subscribes to the email updates here.

Japhy has more than a casual acquaintance with self-identifying as a Tibetan Buddhist.

He does it himself, mostly for the sake of convenience.

He used to think it represented respect for the Rinpoches that mentored him on the path of liberation.

That stopped in his early forties.

He was at a party chatting up a woman he found interesting.

She had dated a Tibetan Buddhist and then proceeded to spend the rest of the evening detailing for him a catalogue of criticism of Tibetan Buddhists that convinced him to henceforth self-identify as something other than Tibetan Buddhist.

The woman nailed it.







Prone to delusions.

Japhy learned an important lesson from that woman.

This wasn’t what he signed up for.

This isn’t what the 16th Karmapa came to the West for.

Such people, Tibetan Buddhists, are not the kind of people he wants to associate with.

All of which presents a unique wrinkle for Japhy personally.

His ink is all Tibetan Iconographic motifs so people familiar with such images recognize them and simply assume he’s a Tibetan Buddhist.

The irony of course is that if you are a Tibetan Buddhist you will find his ink disrespectful of Tibetan Buddhism.

A further irony is that Khenpo Karthar loves Japhy’s ink.

It fascinates Rinpoche.

Khenpo Karthar has seen more than his fair share of inked up white dudes over the years.

Once while lama Yeshe was translating Khenpo Karthar for Japhy he took the opportunity to ask on Rinpoche’s behalf for a guided tour of my artwork.

Both Yeshe and Rinpoche thought it was quite well done.

They have seen a lot of bad ink.

Japhy had always been told that Tibetans, especially older Tibetans like Khenpo Karthar, found what he had done to himself, he’s all inked up and stretches his ears, to be offensive.

In a kata line at the end of a teaching Japhy once had a Tibetan Buddhist go off on him, “I don’t know how you can sleep at night!”

Japhy can go on and on about these people.

He knows them all too well.

Do you think Tibetan Buddhism is a path of liberation?

All you need to do is check your mailbox to know that the likes of Betty, Lama D, Mickey, and Tom, all of them sadly typical of how Tibetan Buddhists behave when they think nobody can see what they are doing, are clearly not on a path to liberation.

All the world is watching, the time to act is now.

Karmapa Chenno!



Filed under Buddhism

24 responses to “A Mailbox Full of the Karmapa’s Tibetan Buddhism

  1. Really, not to put too fine a point on it, self-identifying as anything for any reason other than conversational convenience is a couple steps in the wrong direction.

    • Are Betty, Lama D, Mickey, and Tom on a path of liberation?



      Karmapa Chenno!

      • Pierre

        Well, I respectfully disagree.

        I’m no troll. And I do like this blog. I am heartened by the debate here- but what does someone’s complete disdain for your blog have anything to do with their spiritual practice. Aren’t we entitled to our own opinions? Marpa had a nasty temper, no?

        Surely the quality of people’s practice isn’t predicated by their being in agreement or not with the views expressed here.

        We Kagyu are a varied bunch- some refined and others down-right offensive. That’s just the way this family seems to be structured!

        Karmapa Chenno!

        • Were you not taught to be mindful of who you associate with?

          I was.

          Tibetan Buddhist are not on a path to liberation.

          I do not associate myself which such people.

          Karmapa Chenno!

          • Pierre

            I don’t have the qualities to know for sure which path anyone is traveling.

            The fact is this blog is getting attention, and you are now more of a public figure than ever before. In this regard some will like what you say others won’t.

            What they write here has the same permanence as the voice of Japhy. We are all literary devices here; assigning qualitative judgements is like trying to crystallize a dream.

            • The true nature of my mind is not so obscured that I cannot sufficiently discern those that are on the same path as I am and those that are not.

              I pity any fool that can’t.

              Karmapa Chenno!

  2. Jean

    There is no one to blame but yourself.

    You want to blog big-time but whine like a sissy when people dissagree with you.

    Can’t have it both ways…

    Like father like son: time to man up and deal.

  3. Wendy

    Pay them no mind, Japhy!

    They are just all hot and bothered over nothing- it’s just the summer heat.

    Your blog is really amazing! Your voice has been a great inspiration to me and my local sangha!

    Thanks for staying strong!

    • Do I mind people pushing back when they feel provoked?


      I count on it.


      Trolls are to a successful blog what smoke is to fire.

      This weekend it has been smoking here, over three hundred views on a Sunday afternoon in August for a post I spent fifteen minutes on over a cup of coffee this morning.

      Easy peasy.

      Karmapa Chenno!

      • Wendy

        But still, how can you prove that HHK17 doesn’t support the way KTGR taught his students? You said this yesterday.

        I like your blog, but I don’t take what you say at face value mist of the time because you never really show how you have come to hear the things that you seem to expect us to just accept.

        You stress that HHK should have had access to an education that values critical exploration. The vast majority of your readership has had such an education and as such feel that we can’t just accept all that you write without some kind of proof.

        To assume that we will just swallow your words just because they appear here is something that Tibetan Buddhists do. If you think we should be more, provide more. Lead by example!

        Karmapa Chenno!

        • Does the 17th Karmapa support Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso’s approach which he praised in the preface of “Stars of Wisdom”?


          How can you determine this for yourself?

          Read “Stars of Wisdom,” listen to his teachings on CD.

          There is a DVD, too.

          Than visit Chicago KTC.

          You can also travel to KTD if you are so inclined.

          And then you will know for yourself that the 17th Karmapa indeed does not support Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso’s approach as I have said.

          I thought you were asking me to prove I’m not bothered by trolls.

          I should have asked what you wanted me to prove.

          There is no substitute for figuring what I write about for yourself.

          Let your experience be your truth.

          Karmapa Chenno!

          • Wendy

            Thank you! No, I didn’t say prove that you are affected by trolls.

            You may find you would have less of them if you explained yourself more. I think that it’s very becoming of you.

            Thanks for going in depth with my question!!

            Karmapa chenno!

            • Does anybody read my blog to read what these people have to say about anything?


              If I don’t enjoy the company of a person or find them interesting I don’t waste my time with them here other than to delete them.

              Easy peasy.

              Karmapa Chenno!

        • okiebuddhist


          I don’t have the money to purchase the DVD Japhy discusses on the Karmapa’s approval or disapproval of Khenpo G’s teaching style.

          My guess is that the Karmapa likes Khenpo G’s style as long as G does not teach other lineage materials at KTD.

          “Keep the lineage pure.”

          Khenpo G is like Trungpa. The Karmapa needs these kinds of Khenpos for Americans to embrace the dharma. I just don’t see KTD or KTC embracing the Crazy Wisdom/yogi/yogini style of teaching.

          The Crazy Wisdom still appeals to Americans used to corporate identity. The dharma needs to be set loose upon the world. It’s our job as Karma Kagyu to be ethically responsible but also diverse, authentic, and crazy.

          • Khenpo and Trungpa are the same in their approach?


            Not even close.

            Khenpo is considered by Tibetens to be an emanation of Milarepa?


            He teaches in the form of spontaneous verse.

            As a young man Ponlop was responsible for writing these Dohas down.

            His approach is nothing less than incredible.

            The biggest difference between Trungpa and Khenpo though is the results of his approach.

            It is at the very core of Ponlop’s Nalandabodhi curriculum.

            There is no denying that it produces teachers of the highest calibre.

            Why does the 17th Karmapa praise Khenpo’s approach but does not support its use at KTD and its affiliates?

            His Holiness does not support the transmission from East to West of the path of liberation as taught by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso.

            Is this the only explanation of his lack of support such a transmission of wisdom from East to West?


            Does it have to be?


            Easy peasy.

            Karmapa Chenno!

  4. Chris

    Bill! Awesome blog.

    The hate filled trolls are none other than the scared Tibetan Buddhists who fear losing their titles at their local dharma centers.

    They are the Mickeys- the goon squad of the KTC structure. Who knows? Maybe even Tenzin Chonyi has his fingers on this pot too.

    The point is, you seem to speak the truth. You have shared a lot of yourself, and I suspect the intolerant think that they can just mine your public history (your weak ticker, wife’s brush with cancer, troubled relationship with your son, lack of a lasting father figure, to just name a few things) to exert their will.

    I just want you to know that I think that they are weak and scared and afraid of change.

    You rule! My inner life is much more rich and vibrant thanks to you! Keep it up!

    Karmapa Chenno!

  5. Chris

    Hey Bill,

    Your friend Bernie recently wrote this of your blog:
    “So Ryder Japhy has been pretty critical of how the Karmapa is running the Karma Kagyu, especially as it concerns Western Buddhists. I’m less critical, mostly because I don’t have any strong opinions on the subject. The truth is that he has very little say over how things are done in the West. As always, it’s the Golden Rule: he who has the gold makes the rules. Every center raises its own funds and for that reason calls its own shots. So they are as committed to the Karmapa as they want to be. There are ties of loyalty, but no real control and the Karmapa does not yet have the attention and respect of the general public the Dalai Lama has. If there are faults in how Kagyu Buddhism is being transmitted in the West, place the blame where it belongs, with each center and the lama who runs it. The Karmapa has little to do with it. What the Karmapa and the Kagyu hierarchy have done is to tell teachers to go run centers in the West, what happens after that is up to the teachers themselves. I don’t know what would happen if the Karmapa tried to take tighter control over the centers, dictating what is taught and what practices are done, and rotating his personal choices as teachers into established centers. I don’t think he is foolish enough to try.”

    It looks like he has a point.

    • Chris

      I found this too:

      “Ryder Japhy has been generating a lot of comment with his criticism of the Karmapa and the management of the Karma Kagyu in America. I am more in disagreement with him than agreement, and since I’m finished arguing with Brad Warner, I thought I’d write something about it. In his latest post he argues that the Karmapa should put together a curriculum with input from Americans on Buddhism. This doesn’t strike me as useful. Here’s why.

      If Americans are poorly educated in the dharma, it’s not for lack of a curriculum, but because of how American Buddhist centers are organized. Your typical center meets once or twice a week for group practice. Members come when they want or are able. Classes are held, but it is difficult to hold a class together for more than a few weeks and most members will only attend some of them. For this reason, it’s difficult to teach anything in depth. As new people are arriving and need to be taught from the start, it is difficult to teach advaced topics. These are issues Lance and I struggle with at Medicine Buddha. Compare this with the education of a traditional Kagyu monk, who is expected to study, memorize, and debate texts full time for nine years. Very few Westerners have attempted this sort of serious study. That’s not to say there aren’t knowledgable Westerners, but for the most part they are self-motivated, self-directed, and self-taught. To think this problem could be solved with a standard curriculum misses the entire point of the problem, a lack of time or commitment on the part of the majority of Western students.

      Even though a curriculum might help some, it’s hard to see how a curriculum standardized on a national level would be an improvement over letting each qualified Buddhist teacher in America devise their own curriculum. They certainly know their students and their needs better than the Karmapa in India or some board of translators. And if they have been traditionally educated, they are qualified to devise their own curriculum. It is difficult for me to understand what the benefit of standardization would be.

      Finally, the sort of Westerner who seeks to study Buddhist philosophy in detail is often ruined by their education. On all the Buddhist forums you can find self-educated experts spouting on Buddhist philosophy. The only gain I can see in many cases is an increase in arrogance. While I think study is helpful and I don’t go to the extreme of condemning all study, as some Zen practitioners do, I think the time devoted to intellectual study would be better spent learning to do the practices properly and then doing them. The West needs devoted practitioners more than it needs devoted scholars.”

      A valuable counterpoint.

      • Does it concern me that Bernie has a point of view different than mine?


        Easy peasy.

        Bernie is a highly regarded Buddhiist blogger.

        I have nothing but respect for him.

        And I’m just not saying that.

        I remember well the first time I had access to the Internet.

        I googled “Karma Kagyu” and his blog came up.

        I’ve been a fan ever since.

        What Bernie doesn’t get about this blog is that I want nothing more than the 17th Karmapa to flourish.

        I believe that criticism is time honored path of liberation in the West that His Holiness would do well to take advantage of if he wishes to ever be free in this lifetime.

        He has lived his life without the benefit of criticism and has as the 17th Karmapa spent his life a captive of others whom lead him around like a yak by the rope they have put through his nose.

        Just as we in the West have learned over the centuries to learn from criticism so must His Holiness in my opinion.

        Am I entitled to have an opinion?


        According to the Karmapa’s Tibetan Buddhists I do not.

        His angry white men have let loose on me like their lives depend upon it.


        They are afraid of the consequences of the transmission of the path of liberation from East to West.

        Their entire self worth is based on privilege.

        What a shock, privileged white men freaking out when their positions are threatened.

        Bernie has been correcting me for years now online.

        In this regard he is typical of Tibetan Buddhists.

        It is what he does.

        Unlike the Karmapa’s Tibetan Buddhists though he knows how to behave online.

        He knows that if he wishes to say something to say about me that the comment section of my blog is not the place to do it.

        He has his own blog, a highly regarded one, and has used it in this instance to provide a counterpoint to mine.

        I support this, and commend him for doing so.

        As a Tibetan Buddhist, he is the exception that proves the rule.

        He isn’t angry.

        He isn’t alone in this regard, I know many such exceptions.

        Bernie and I will never be best buddies.

        My friends in life are passionate people, painters, sculptors, poets, not Tibetan Buddhists,whom, sadly, in my experience don’t so fully partake of that which moves them.

        To each their own, say I, and I welcome Bernie’s correction in the spirit it is given, a heartfelt belief that I am wrong tempered by a respect for my right to do as I see fit whether he agrees with me or not.

        Karmapa Chenno!

  6. Cliff

    I found this one

    Bill Schwartz, in his blog Tinfoil Ushnisha, writes under the nom de guerre Japhy Ryder- one of the main characters of Dharma Bums, a novel written by the self-styled Buddhist, and hopelessly self-destructive American writer, Jack Kerouac. Schwartz claims that as a literary device the views of Japhy are not necessarily his own. This convenience appears to lend him a sense of self-satisfaction and safety as he attacks the structure of the Karma Kagyu lineage as it has established itself in the United States.

    His poorly defined threads of logic are difficult to follow, and he often repeats himself giving the reader impression that his view is rather limited, if not completely lacking a well grounded foundation in reality. When questioned, he often goes on the defensive and is quick to belittle anyone who disagrees with his position. Indeed his inability to appreciate a nuanced argument, or even hold the container of a blog that might maintain a healthy diversity of view, seems to say a lot about him. It appears that the locus of orientation for Tinfoil is: Japhy’s way or the highway. This is easily seen by following his responses to comments on Tinfoil. Take a look for yourself- I’m sure that you too may find that the harsh dictatorial tones resonate less with Buddhism than anything else one might imagine.

    Making claims of being a sociologist, the person behind Japhy only has a BA in sociology and no other accredited qualifications- other than a career in the insurance industry. He says that he has an unfinished MA, but the degree not achieved can never be the degree obtained- an obvious prerequisite for assigning oneself the professional identity as a sociologist. As such Schwartz reveals much about himself by claiming to be a sociologist. Indeed, a cold reading of his bio on Google+ is more reminiscent of the character Willie Loman from Death of a Salesman than Japhy Ryder from Dharma Bums.

    Having made a nominal name for himself by airing the dirty laundry of Tibetan Buddhism in America, Japhy seems to enjoy causing problems by constantly poking sore spots that face KTD, the North American Seat of His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje, as well as Tsurphu Labrang. In response, Bill Schwartz was recently sent a letter written by his own lama, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche regarding his blogging activities. That the voice of Japhy continues to hurt the hearts and plague the minds of the followers of Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche and damage the reputation of KTD and Tsurphu Labrang seems to sum up Schwartz’s view of his relationship with his lama; it is well defined and follows tradition when convenient, and self-protecting and diverges from tradition when convenient. Either way you cut it, it appears to this blogger that Tinfoil Ushnisha is rooted in courting controversy in the name of re-invigorating the American Karma Kagyu- what it does in reality is something much different.

    Over the course of time, we will explore a number of passages from Tinfoil Ushnisha and explore the unique ‘logic’ and compare them with writings of past masters to help lend a greater sense of clarity to the arguments expressed in Tinfoil and their relationship to the lineage at large. Let’s see if we can hold the views of Tinfoil to a higher standard than the vague shifting sands of the blogosphere have provided up until this moment!

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